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Bush Promises Support for African Countries - 2003-06-26

President Bush says the United States is determined to help bring peace to war-torn African nations, such as Liberia, Congo and Sudan.

With his first trip to Africa set to begin on July 7, President Bush is laying out his agenda for U.S. relations with the continent.

It begins with security and efforts to end the conflicts that have taken so many lives, starting with the bloodshed in Liberia. Mr. Bush says Liberian President Charles Taylor must abide by a cease-fire agreement and give up power.

"President Taylor needs to step down, so that his country can be spared further bloodshed," he said.

His remarks to the Corporate Council for Africa, a group promoting U.S.-African business ties, marked his first public comments on the war in Liberia, which was founded by freed American slaves. President Bush also used the occasion to reaffirm his support for the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he said he would be sending his personal envoy, former Senator John Danforth, back to Sudan.

"He will make clear that the only option on the table is peace," the president said. "Both sides must now make their final commitment to peace and human rights, and end the suffering of Sudan."

There have been calls abroad for the United States to send peacekeepers to parts of Africa, including a British proposal for U.S. troops to go to Liberia. President Bush said Americans will provide training, so that Africans can handle peacekeeping anywhere on the continent themselves.

"Skilled and well-equipped peacekeeping forces are essential, because in the long run, Africans will keep the peace in Africa," he said.

The president went on to note the strains the war on terrorism have placed on the security infrastructure of several East African countries. He promised massive U.S. aid to several countries in the region, including Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda and Tanzania. Mr. Bush said the funds will help pay for intelligence gathering, border patrols, and efforts to cut-off the flow of money to terrorist groups.

"Today, I announce that the United States will devote $100 million over the next 15 months to help countries in the region increase their own counter-terror efforts," he said.

Mr. Bush closed his address by touching on some of the themes sure to resound during his Africa trip. He talked about the importance of trade to the continent's future and the need to fight AIDS, which has ravaged parts of the continent.

"America is proud to be a part of this cause, and we are absolutely determined to see it through, until we have turned the tide against AIDS in Africa," announced Mr. Bush.

The president begins his five-day African journey in Senegal. He also will travel to Uganda, South Africa, Botswana and Nigeria.